“The energy of avoidance became too great to ignore. I broke. After nearly 20 years of hiding and running away, I made a willful decision to face the pain, address the guilt and talk about the shame. This time, I wasn’t giving up; I was letting go.”
Today, I am honored to feature a guest post from my friend Tim Rymel. I hope your heart is blessed…
Coming Out and Letting Go by Tim Rymel
I was 24 years old when I came out to my parents. I confessed, amid tears, that I had had a sexual encounter with a man in our church. In the same breath I told them I would “get fixed.” It was the age of ex-gay ministries and I believed in the promise of freedom and change. We had no other hope.
My father was a deacon. I was the music minister. All I’d ever wanted to be was a minister of the Gospel. But the thorn in my flesh, this ungodly same-sex attraction, ate at my soul. I prayed, confessed, fasted, cried and even had a pastor cast a demon from me on one occasion. Nothing worked.
In 1990, I entered Love in Action, the premier residential ex-gay program for men dealing with unwanted same sex attractions. It was a mere 100 miles away from my home. I believed it was God-ordained. I believed God would do miraculous things. For the next year I prayed, confessed and submitted my life to the leadership. I felt my burden lift and my same-sex attractions disappear into the background of my life. They weren’t gone, but had become manageable since I was finally able to share my struggle with others.
By 1991, considered a success story of the program, I stepped back into the ministry as the outreach director for Love in Action. It was a time when the cultural war between the religious right and the LGBT communities was heating up. Love in Action was right there in the middle of it all, positioned to do the work of the Lord.
For the next five years our ministry appeared on top syndicated television and radio shows. I suddenly found myself traveling from city to city, sharing my testimony of “deliverance.” By 1995, I’d married a beautiful young lady and I professed that through my obedience to the Word and will of God, I had been changed.
I wanted to believe it. I thought there was no other way for God to love or bless me.
When my wife announced she was divorcing me, six years later, I was devastated. Life had been crashing in on us since the beginning. The invisible wall that kept us from experiencing true intimacy had taken its toll. I was unable to make a meaningful connection with her and she was tired of trying.
Divorce was never an option for me as a Christian. No matter how bad things got, I believed I’d made a commitment for life. How could this be happening to me? Wasn’t struggling with same-sex attraction enough for one person? Where was God in this? How could God get any glory from this horrendous pain? Even if I deserved this, what about my children?
I retreated into a life of depression and despair, trying to make sense of it all. The disappointment of failure led to anger and bitterness. The Scriptures, which I’d relied on for answers nearly all my life, became meaningless. Nothing had really worked. Over the next decade I slipped into a spiritual coma, drifting through life, wondering who or what God was and wondering who or what I’d become. I’d given up in defeat. Homosexuality had conquered my faith.
I eventually accepted the very real fact that I was gay. I went back to school and earned college degrees. I threw myself into a business and wrote my first book. I was making plenty of money, but my passion was forced. My endeavors were cerebral and devoid of emotion. I assumed that my spiritual failure was my final destination.
One day, I learned that former friends and colleagues from the ex-gay ministry were going to appear on a television show. I’d spurned such things in the past, but this was different. I needed to know what happened to them. I was in a different place; maybe they were, too.
They shared their stories of unrealized dreams, devastating family losses, perceived failures and giving up on God. Many expressed the pain of their broken relationships, self-hatred and suicidal thoughts from trying to become something they could never be. They were telling my story; I wasn’t alone.
The credits rolled as I sat on my couch. The cork I’d used to trap all those emotions popped and now I had a decision to make. I could put the cork back in the bottle of hurt and pain, or I could unleash what could be a perpetual floodgate of agony. The energy of avoidance became too great to ignore. I broke. After nearly 20 years of hiding and running away, I made a willful decision to face the pain, address the guilt and talk about the shame. This time, I wasn’t giving up; I was letting go.
Giving up is passive acceptance of our circumstances, while letting go is an act of courage. I came out of hiding. I reclaimed my past. All of it. It’s what made me who I am. I began to share my story and risked rejection of those who disagreed with me. I no longer gave others the power to tell me who I was or let their values define me. I claimed my identity and took my life back. In a sense, I came out again, but this time with purpose and passion.
Ironically, as people of faith, we feel so certain about who God is and how He works. That is the exact opposite of faith. If we are always certain about “truth,” then faith isn’t necessary. I don’t have faith in gravity. It simply is. When I let go of my preconceived ideals, I discovered that God lies in the very places where uncertainty exists. We are finite beings in an infinite world. If we are really truth seekers then we discover that where there are answers, there are many more questions.
Life seldom leads us down a straight path. The Hollywood ending we’ve been conditioned to look for doesn’t happen for most of us. In fact, the most meaningful things really happen around the plans we’ve made, or derail us altogether. That’s where we make a choice: Do we live a life of perceived failure because our plans weren’t accomplished, or do we embrace our imperfections, confront the pain and let go of the reigns?
I choose to live life in the uncertainty of faith and let God take care of the rest.
Tim Rymel, M.Ed. was the Outreach Director for Love in Action, once the oldest ex-gay organization in the world. He now shares his story in his latest book Going Gay My Journey from Evangelical Christian Minister to Self-acceptance, Love, Life and Meaning, CK Publishing, (2014). For speaking engagements call (707) 563-xgay (9429) or email: Tim@TimRymel.com. Order the book: Going Gay.
[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit www.FreedHearts.org]